Saturday, September 29, 2012

Missionary Maintenance Plan

Being a "missionary" is one of the most rewarding things and one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Now, I am not complaining because I would not trade what I am doing for anything; I know that what I am doing is part of God's plan for my life and I have been involved in so many great things as a missionary.  What I have discovered, as I am sure many other missionaries have, is that to be a successful long-term missionary you need to have a missionary maintenance plan.  For me there are three parts to this plan.

First, we need to have a strong relationship with God; we must make sure that we are regularly spending time with God through His Word and in prayer.  It is easy to get so busy working for God that we start to ignore our relationship with God.  As a missionary it can also be easy to focus on the aspect of raising support.  The Bible says that God will supply what I need, not based on all my efforts, but through Christ.  Matthew 6:33 says that if we seek God's Kingdom first then all of the other things we need will be added to us.

Second, we need to stay focused on the call of God in our life.  There will always be hard times as a minister and as a missionary there can be the added stress of living in a different nation than where you are born.  While I can happily say that I enjoy living and ministering in Germany and Europe there are things here that are different from where I grew up.  That is not to say that one is right and the other is wrong, it is just different.  When we are frequently faced with things that are different than what we are used to it can be a problem, this is where culture shock comes in.  For me the solution is to focus on what God has called me to do.  If God has called me to be in a certain place then He will give me the grace to live, work, and succeed there.

Third, we need to develop strong personal relationships.  Thankfully this is an easy one for me; I work with an awesome group of people here in Germany.  It is important to have good personal relationships with people who can help to encourage us and support us in what God has called us to do.  We were not designed to work and live alone so we must have some good friends to help us along the way.  These three things have been a help to me as a missionary and I plan on continuing to use this missionary maintenance plan.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who Do You Compare To?

"Not that we [have the audacity to] venture to class or [even to] compare ourselves with some who exalt and furnish testimonials for themselves!  However, when they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely."
2 Corinthians 10:12 (Amplified)

One of the problems Paul faced in his life was people who did not respect him or his ministry; this is one of the issues Paul writes about in the second letter to the Corinthians.  Some people said that Paul's physical appearance and how he talked was not impressive (2 Corinthians 10:10).  Paul's response is that while some people measure and compare themselves with others he was not interested in doing that.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 10:12 Paul said people who compare themselves with others and measure themselves by others are not wise.

In Philippians 3 Paul talked about his natural heritage but said all he wanted was to be "found in Christ".  Paul knew that the only important thing in life is how we measure up to and compare with what God wants for us.  It is easy to start measuring our life and our success by other people but this is a trap the enemy wants us to fall into.  God has a plan for our life and how successful we may or may not look compared to other people does not matter as long as we are doing what God wants us to do.

If we try to build our confidence and self worth on how we compare to other people we will get into trouble.  God does not want us comparing ourselves to others but He wants us to take a look into His Word and compare ourselves with the standard that we see there.  We will get off track with God's plan if we don't follow God's standard but instead look for approval from others and compare ourselves with others.  We need to be interested in being approved by God, not people.  So, who do you compare to?  Let's make it our goal to measure up to the godly standards we see in the Bible and not compare ourselves to other people.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Watching For Wisdom

"Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice?
Blessed is the man who listens to me (wisdom), watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors."
Proverbs 8:1, 34 (NKJV)

In Proverbs chapter 8 wisdom is personified and shown talking to people about the advantages of wisdom, understanding and instruction.  In Proverbs 8 we learn that kings reign through wisdom (8:15), that God had wisdom before creation (8:22) and wisdom is like a master craftsman (8:30).  Most people would agree that wisdom is a good thing but strangely enough wisdom is something that many people don't seem to have enough of.

Since wisdom is so good what can we do to get more wisdom?  Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  If we do not put God and His ways in first place in our life we will not even be able to start on the path of wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2 says that with humility comes wisdom but that with pride comes shame.  This lets us know that a right attitude is also important if we want to get wisdom.  A third thing about getting wisdom is that we need to watch for wisdom.

How can we "watch for wisdom"?  The Bible tells us that God gives wisdom and He stores up wisdom for the righteous (Proverbs 2:6, 7).  We can get wisdom by following God and making sure we spend time with His Word.  Another good way to get wisdom is to make sure we spend time with the right people.  Wisdom is with those who have understanding (Proverbs 10:13, 23; 14:33) and wisdom comes from the mouth of the righteous (Proverbs 10:31).  The people we listen to should first of all be godly people and secondly people who have some understanding.  There are a lot of people who want you to listen to them but they don't have any wisdom to give.  Be choosy about who you listen to and watch for wisdom coming through God's Word and godly people.  Take the time to watch for wisdom and you will reap the benefits!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Whole Is No Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

"And if one member suffers, all the parts [share] the suffering; if one member is honored all the members [share in] the enjoyment of it."
1 Corinthians 12:26 (Amplified Bible)

There is a saying that goes something like, "The whole is greater (or more) than the sum of its parts".  The idea is that things working together produce or become something greater than what they are individually.  This saying expresses an important truth that we also see in the Bible, but there is something else we can see here if we look at this phrase a little bit differently. The whole is no greater than the sum of its parts when every part of that whole is not functioning properly.

Usually the whole cannot rise above the sum of the parts involved.  In other words, you can have a very healthy and strong group that is restricted from its fullest potential by one or more weak member. There may be a company that is excelling in most of what it does but the parts that are not excelling are hindering the whole from moving forward.  A church may have several areas that are working well but if there are some areas that are weak and struggling it will have an effect on the whole church.  As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26 when one part of the body is suffering the whole body is affected.  The Body of Christ and organizations are made up of many parts; just think, what could happen if every part was doing well in their particular area?
Every Christian will either be contributing to the heath and stability of their local church, and the overall Body of Christ, or they will be hindering it.  Ephesians 4:16 says that every part of the body has something to give.  But what if some parts of the body or an organization did not fully give what they could, would that body, church, or organization do everything that it could or should do?  We need to take an honest look at ourselves and ask if we are being a weak or a strong part of whatever we might be involved in.  This applies especially to the Body of Christ and our local church but also in our families, where we work and whatever else we might be involved in.  Let's all function at our full capacity and make the whole strong rather than be the weak part that holds the body back from achieving its fullest potential.